Abe defends shrine visits amid tensions with China and South Korea

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday there is no problem for his Cabinet members to visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, even if there is criticism from China or South Korea.

“My ministers will not yield to any kind of intimidation,” Abe said during a session of parliament. “It’s a matter of course to secure the freedom to express one’s respect and worship to precious souls of the war dead.”

Abe made the remarks at a time when China and South Korea, which see Yasukuni as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, have sternly protested against the visits to the Tokyo shrine by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and two other Cabinet members last weekend, as well as Tuesday’s mass homage there by 168 Japanese lawmakers.


Japan PM vows to expel by force any Chinese landing on disputed islands

Japan’s prime minister on Tuesday vowed to “expel by force” any Chinese landing on islands at the centre of a territorial row, after eight Chinese government vessels sailed into disputed waters.

“We would take decisive action against any attempt to enter territorial waters and to land” on the islands, Mr Shinzo Abe told parliament in response to questions from lawmakers.


Eight Chinese government ships have entered Japanese territorial waters near disputed islands, the most in a single day since Tokyo nationalised part of the archipelago, the Japanese government says. A flotilla of boats carrying more than 80 Japanese nationalists had arrived in waters near the islands on Tuesday, risking further straining Tokyos already tense relations with its Asian neighbours.Japan’s coastguard confirmed the Chinese vessels had entered waters near the East China Sea island chain.The maritime surveillance ships entered the 12-nautical-mile zone off the Senkaku chain of islands, which China calls the Diaoyu, about 8am 9am AEST, the Japan Coast Guard said in a statement.State-owned Chinese ships have frequently spent time around the five disputed islands, also claimed by Taiwan, in recent months.

Read the rest of the story: Senkaku-Diaoyu island tensions rise.

Japan Heads to Polls to Vote

Voters were expected to return Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to power in an election on Sunday after a three year hiatus, giving ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a chance to push his hawkish security agenda and radical economic recipe.

An LDP win would usher in a government committed to a tough stance in a territorial row with China, a pro-nuclear power energy policy despite last year’s Fukushima disaster and a potentially risky prescription for hyper-easy monetary policy and big fiscal spending to beat deflation and tame a strong yen.

Media surveys have forecast the LDP will win a big majority in parliament’s powerful 480-seat lower house, just three years after a devastating defeat that ended more than 50 years of almost non-stop rule by the business-friendly party. However, many voters remained undecided just days before the vote, the polls showed.

Read the rest of the story: Japan heads to polls, conservative LDP seen returning to power | Reuters.



Shinzo Abe Facebook’s His Thoughts

You don’t have to like Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe, but the veteran Japanese politician’s Facebook page is sure getting lots of attention.

That’s because he used the social media site this week as an outlet to clarify his series of controversial statements on monetary policy.

Did he or did he not say the Bank of Japan should directly buy construction bonds? Check his Facebook page. Indeed, Mr. Abe took the unusual step of directing reporters to his wall of posts on Wednesday where he had posted the answer the previous night.

Read the rest of the story: Facebook Comes First for Japan PM Hopeful Abe.

Former PM Yukio Hatoyama retiring from politics

Current Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stated today that former premier, and member of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), Yukio Hatoyama would be leaving the party prior to next month’s general election, and retiring from politics altogether. Leading up to the decision, 65 year old Hatoyama was already unhappy with the DPJ’s direction and Noda’s commitment to joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

Hatoyama was the first prime minister from the DPJ when the party gained power in 2009, however he only served for nine months. He was also one of the leading figures of the party when it was established in 1998. In regards to his opposition to the party’s current policies, Hatoyama told his followers that his views were far too different these days, and that he didn’t have any choice but to leave. In previous years he was seen as somewhat of an oddball, with the Japanese media giving him the nickname “The Alien” for his wide-eyed expressions, as well as his spirituality-interested wife, Miyuki, who claimed she once visited the planet Venus on a triangular spaceship, and met Tom Cruise in a previous life.

The former prime minister has a personal wealth reaching into the millions. He is recognized for coming from a family with powerful political and business connections, including a grandfather who served as prime minister once, and another who founded tire manufacturing giant Bridgestone. When he took the seat in 2009, he was seen by the public as someone who would bring the change the DPJ had promised in its campaign pledges, however that reputation quickly diminished when he changed his stance on removing one the controversial U.S. military bases in Okinawa.

Japan’s PM Says No Flights Until Osprey Confirmed Safe

Japan’s prime minister says he will not allow any flights of the US military’s latest transport aircraft in this country until its safety after two recent crashes has been confirmed.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told Parliament on Tuesday that no flights would take place until investigations into the April and June crashes were completed and Japan was satisfied the aircraft are not a safety hazard.

Read the rest of the story: Japan Says No Flights Until Osprey Confirmed Safe.

Japan’s PM Says ‘Biggest Hurdle’ this year is to Pass Social Welfare and Sales Tax Bills

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said revamping the country’s tax and social welfare system is his top legislative priority of the year as he struggles to overcome opposition to doubling the sales tax by 2015.

“Our biggest hurdle is the unified reform of social security and taxes,” Noda said in Tokyo at his first press conference of the year. “This is something we can no longer postpone.”

Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan last week proposed raising the 5 percent consumption tax to 8 percent in April 2014 and 10 percent in October 2015 to help pay for soaring welfare costs as the population ages. Nine DPJ lawmakers left the party in revolt and the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party called for an election before considering legislation on the issue.

Read the rest of the story: Noda Says ‘Biggest Hurdle’ to Be Passing Social Welfare, Sales Tax Bills.

Japan PM support falls to 55% according to latest poll

Public support for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government was at 54.6 percent, a Kyodo news agency survey showed on Sunday, down 8.2 percentage points in the first month after he took office.

Noda, Japan’s sixth premier in five years, enjoyed strong support right after he took over from his unpopular predecessor, but the 54-year-old premier had to sack his trade minister just a week after taking office due to gaffes.

His government is now trying to draft and submit to the divided parliament this month another extra budget to fund rebuilding efforts from a huge earthquake and tsunami that destroyed northeastern Japan and its Pacific coast in March.

Read the rest of the story: Japan PM support falls in first month to 55 pct – poll.

Japan’s new First Lady hard to find

Japan’s new First Lady Hitomi Noda may be a boon to her husband’s premiership the same way that his high public approval ratings were to his party’s badly dented image.

Mrs Noda, 48, epitomises the ideal Japanese woman, one who always walks a step or two behind her husband, manages the household finances without a grumble and brings up their children virtually single-handedly so that he can focus on his career.

She is reluctant to be in the limelight, so much so that she has yet to be seen in public since her husband Yoshihiko Noda, 54, was elected Prime Minister last Tuesday. The media had to resort to using old photographs showing her standing next to her husband at election time.

When Mr Noda was asked by reporters whether his wife would attend international conferences as First Lady, he replied: " don’t know… (I called her but) the answering machine was on."

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Noda, Japan’s PM, says he is bottom feeder

The 54-year-old, who as finance minister kept to plodding statements so as not to spook financial markets, stresses his credentials as a responsible, moderate and middle-of-the road leader at a time of national crisis.When he announced his candidacy in an essay in a conservative magazine this month, Noda said: I am an ordinary man. I do not have large financial resources… I am not stylish and my looks are not my selling point.On Monday, making his final pitch for the leadership of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, he used the fish metaphor, humbly telling his fellow DPJ MPs: I am a loach. I cant be a goldfish.

Read the rest of the story: Japan PM says he is bottom feeder.